Milton Friedman and School Choice: Limited Government Principles Foster Quality Education

Capitalism and Freedom

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Cross-posted from National School Choice Week blog on November 22, 2011:

In his book Capitalism and Freedom, Milton Friedman writes, “Not all schooling is education nor all education, schooling. The proper subject of concern is education. The activities of government are mostly limited to schooling.” (86).

At a time when big government policies are all-pervading and equally treacherous, education similarly suffers at the hands of bureaucrats and union bosses. Copious amounts of dollars are funding school administrations and teacher pay, while student needs are neglected and tossed aside.  For example, “Teachers Unions Gone Wild”—an undercover video by James O’Keefe that exposed the New Jersey Education Association teachers’ union in Fall 2010—captured problems inset with powerful and equally egregious teachers unions. When an oversized bureaucracy rules, quality education ceases to exist.

In a time where education reform is desired and necessary, it is imperative to note that big government policies are counterintuitive to a world-class education system.

Milton Friedman encouraged a localized approach to education. In particular, he emphasized parental control over school placement. Additionally, he best explained the case for school choice with respect to limited government through vouchers:

“Governments could require a minimum level of schooling financed by giving parents vouchers redeemable for a specified maximum sum per child per year if spent on ‘approved’ educational resources. Parents would then be free to spend this sum and any additional sum they themselves provided on purchasing educational services from an ‘approved’ institution of their own choice. The educational services could be rendered by private enterprises operated for, or by non-profit institutions,” (Friedman 89).

Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice continues the legacy wrought by Milton Friedman and his wife Rose Friedman:

“In 1996, they established the Milton and Rose D. Friedman Foundation to advance a system of k-12 education where every parent, regardless of race, origin or family income, was free to choose a learning environment that was best for their child. As they said, “This foundation is the culmination of what has been one of our main interests for more than four decades: improvement in the quality of the education available to children of all income and social classes in this nation, whether that education is provided in government or private schools or at home.”

“Today, while our name is different (The Foundation for Educational Choice) our mission remains the same.

“Our Foundation is dedicated to building upon our founders’ theories and vision, clarifying their meaning to the public and amplifying the national call for true education reform through school choice.” – (Taken from the Foundation’s website)

As a result, this is the best time to heed Milton Friedman’s words about limited government in education.